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Australia and England to battle in stage one of Red Bull Air Race Abu Dhabi

Three-times Red Bull Air Race World Championship runner-up Matt Hall will fly in an intriguing head-to-head battle against British pilot Ben Murphy, in the first stage of the 2019 Red Bull Air Race World Championship in Abu Dhabi, UAE tomorrow.

It’s a contest that will see Hall, who remains the only pilot to have stood on the world championship podium in his rookie season in 2009, take on the man who fought tooth and nail to usurp the Aussie’s rookie-record last season.

Murphy and Hall will lock horns after finishing seventh and eighth respectively in today’s qualifying session. The fastest pilot today was 2017 world champion Yoshihide Muroya of Japan, who claimed three world championship points for his efforts and will face 14th qualifier Nicolas Ivanoff of France in the first stage of the race tomorrow.

Today also marked the first time since 2010 that points have been awarded for qualifying, Muroya capitalising on day one of that rule change being in effect. Points were also up for grabs for the second and third placed pilots Pete McLeod (Canada) and Michael Goulian (USA).

Goulian was awarded one point, but McLeod was stripped of his two points due to a technical infringement that found his engine to have one magneto timing outside of the acceptable range. However, the Canadian did not lose his second-placing courtesy of the technical committee being satisfied that the breach was not intentional.

While high drama surrounded McLeod, Hall remained unfazed by finishing outside of the points in eighth.

“I’m not concerned by not getting points today. Three points lost when there are 200 up for grabs this season, is not a problem,” Hall said.

“We know we’re working with an issue with the plane at the moment. We were hoping we had solved it for qualifying, but it turns out we didn’t. We tried to solve it with a band aid and that didn’t work, so now we will do surgery on the plane tonight.”

Although in the unenviable position of making wholesale changes ahead of what will be a closely fought contest against the fast-improving Murphy, Hall remained confident of his prospects come race day.

“We’re confident that we can still win this race, but we weren’t confident that we could win qualy with our issue,” the Aussie surmised.

“As a team, I am really happy with how we are going, I am really happy with how I am flying the plane. The plane is performing, except for this one issue that we’ve been aware of.”

Tomorrow’s race will begin with the Round of 14, which will see all pilots paired off in one-on-one knockout rounds based off qualifying results. The seven pilots who beat the time of their opponent – and the fastest loser – will progress to the Round of 8. The four winners will then progress to the Final 4, where the pilot with the fastest time will be declared the winner.

Action begins at 2pm local time in Abu Dhabi, UAE. Aussie fans can watch LIVE from 9pm AEDT at www.redbullairrace.com/live.

ABU DHABI QUALIFYING RESULTS

  1. Yoshihide Muroya (JPN): 53.024
  2. Pete McLeod (CAN): 53:240
  3. Michael Goulian (USA): 53.400
  4. Martin Šonka (CZE): 53.524
  5. Mika Brageot (FRA): 53.572
  6. Juan Velarde (ESP): 53.687
  7. Ben Murphy (GBR): 53.748
  8. Matt Hall (AUS): 53.792
  9. François Le Vot (FRA): 54.177
  10. Matthias Dolderer (GER): 54.180
  11. Cristian Bolton (CHI): 54.228
  12. Petr Kopfstein (CZE): 54.425
  13. Kirby Chambliss (USA): 54.571
  14. Nicolas Ivanoff (FRA): 54.592

2019 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

  1. Yoshihide Muroya (JPN): 3
  2. Michael Goulian (USA): 1
  3. Pete McLeod (CAN): 0
  4. Martin Šonka (CZE): 0
  5. Mika Brageot (FRA): 0
  6. Juan Velarde (ESP): 0
  7. Ben Murphy (GBR): 0
  8. Matt Hall (AUS): 0
  9. François Le Vot (FRA): 0
  10. Matthias Dolderer (GER): 0
  11. Cristian Bolton (CHI): 0
  12. Petr Kopfstein (CZE): 0
  13. Kirby Chambliss (USA): 0
  14. Nicolas Ivanoff (FRA): 0